Xiongdi in Ikebukuro: friendship as/instead of community amongst Chinese migrants in Tokyo
(University of Sheffield)
Paper short abstract:
Chinese migrants lives’ in Tokyo are transient and heavily network dependent, despite often opening up “Chinatown” like spaces that are common sites men spend time carousing. Based on fieldwork in Ikebukuro, I will show how masculine performances take on new meanings in transient migrant lives.
Paper long abstract:
Strong masculine friendships are a significant part of Chinese sociality. In the migrant context this takes on even greater meaning as other forms of institutionalised togetherness are eroded. Chinese migrants lives' in Tokyo are transient and heavily network dependent, despite being the largest group of non-nationals and often opening up "Chinatown" like spaces. Ikebukuro, one such space, is a common site for Chinese men to spend time consuming Chinese products and carousing at night. Based on over 18 months fieldwork in Ikebukuro, I will show how masculine friendships and performances take on new meanings in highly transient migrant lives. Rather than long lasting friendship, or "community," Chinese men in Ikebukuro seek ecstatic moments of conviviality in the pool halls, Chinese restaurants and karaoke bars of this space. Whilst this is not markedly different from masculine sociality in other parts of the Chinese speaking world, interviews with these men in private elicit a sense of change in this mode of friendship. Seen as fleeting and temporary, these networks are described as a quick fix for the loneliness found in migrant life. At the same time, it still depends on the rhetoric of "xiongdi" (brotherhood/mateship) to provide a satisfying affect. This shows the paradoxical need to cite older gendered ways of performing "togetherness" despite the perceived changes occurring in this form of sociality.
Masculinities in times of uncertainty and change